Classroom Music, Recorder Instruction and Chorus

Jana Gruss

Jana teaches K-3 classroom music and chorus at 5 of our Newhall School District sites. Originally from the Seattle area, she came to California to study piano performance and education at The Master’s College. After completing her BA in music/liberal arts and CA Clear Teaching Credential, she spent 7 years in a typical classroom teaching grades K, 3 and 6. Newhall School District wanted to expand music education district wide and asked Mrs. Gruss to develop a comprehensive classroom music program. This musical journey started in 1986. Her passion is inspiring young minds to pursue musical learning beyond her classroom. In addition to her 28 years of work in NSD, Mrs. Gruss has worked with many church children’s choirs, produced children’s musicals and narrated children’s orchestra concerts. Currently, she is an adjunct teacher for the The Master’s College Music Department.

Brandon Valerino

Brandon is a multi-instrumentalist and passionate music educator. Originally from Syracuse, NY, Brandon received a BA in Saxophone Performance at the New England Conservatory located in the heart of Boston. He recently ventured to Los Angeles, CA to pursue the progressive Master of Arts in Teaching program through the Longy School of Music of Bard College and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Currently, Brandon teaches K-3 classroom music and chorus at five elementary schools throughout the Newhall School District.



Tara Speiser

Originally from Carmel Valley, CA, Tara joined the Newhall School District in 1995. She holds a BA from UC Santa Cruz, an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a professional Clear teaching credential. Since moving to Southern California in 1992, Tara has demonstrated a commitment to the development of young musicians serving as a wind specialist with the Santa Clarita Youth Orchestra, a teaching artist with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, an adjunct bassoon faculty member at CALARTS, and as program coordinator and chamber music teacher for the Santa Clarita Valley Community Arts Partnership (SCVAP) music workshops at CALARTS. Tara maintains a local private basson studio and plays bassoon with local professional orchestras, early music ensembles and avant-garde experimental groups. Tara is a member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the California Music Educators Association (CMEA).

Karen Long

Ms. Long is a Southern California native with over 30 years of playing experience. She holds a BA in Music Education from Azusa Pacific University, an MM (Master of Music) in Music Education from Boston University, and a California teaching credential in Music. Ms. Long is a well-rounded musician who enjoys playing many instruments (including guitar and drums); but she considers herself a brass specialist. In addition to school bands and orchestras, Ms. Long has worked with high school choirs, drum lines, and rock bands. She advocates for the research-supported benefits of participation in music education as strong scientific support for its inclusion in all schools. Ms. Long is passionate about instilling a love for life-long music making in her students and takes great pleasure in seeing her students succeed.

Melissa Fuentes

Ms. Fuentes grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, which is where she got her start in teaching while working with local schools and performance groups. During her early years of high school, she discovered that she wanted to pursue a career in music education. She graduated with honors from California State University, Fullerton with a BA in Music Education and holds a California teaching credential in Music. Ms. Fuentes is a percussion specialist and multi-instrumentalist. She is a percussion coach for the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra (PYSO) and is on staff at Bellis Music Camp. In addition, she teaches private lessons in both orchestral percussion and drum set. Ms. Fuentes is passionate about sharing music with students and helping them become life-long learners of music.